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BC Parks still has some May long weekend campsites available

The new online booking system has a user-friendly map, allowing campers to see available sites across the province.

If you were hoping to pitch a tent at one of B.C.'s campgrounds on May long weekend, there's still time to book a site. 

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment says BC Parks has availability in some parts of the province, including in northern B.C. and in the southern Interior.

BC Parks launched its revamped booking system Monday at 7 a.m. The previous version was not immune to crashing on opening day.

By 7 a.m., there were 23,000 people in the queue. The ministry spokesperson said the queue was cleared within 45 minutes.

By 9 a.m., almost 16,000 bookings were made; 97% of sites booked within the first three hours were made from within British Columbia, the ministry said.

So far, the system has not crashed.

"I want people to know, in British Columbia, that we listened. We heard that people were frustrated by it [the old website]. It wasn’t just the system crashing; it was long waits without knowing how long they’d have to wait to log back in all the time. It was the functionality of the site. It was, frankly, very clunky," Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman told Glacier Media last week.

Heyman said the new site should be "very stable."

"We built it so that we have added capacity for times of booking when we know it will be heavy," he said.

There are a few things you should know about the revamped service:

1. Create an account

Visit the BC Parks sign-in page and create an account. You can do this before bookings open (remember: you can only book two months in advance). This allows you to test out the new look and understand how the site works. 

You'll be asked for your name, email, address and phone number when signing up for an account. 

Once that's done you'll be able to view, modify or cancel a booking. You can change your profile at any time. 

2. New waiting room

Similar to when you booked a COVID-19 vaccine, there will be a waiting queue before booking your campsite. 

This will allow you to know exactly how long the wait is. (The old site didn't give an estimated wait time.)

Ministry staff say the queuing system is only in place for opening day; the goal is to prevent the system from overloading and provide fair access to the site.

The ministry says the new reservation service will be able to handle high web traffic on popular dates. Expanded call centre services will be available to support customers as needed. 

3. Clear cancellation policy

Before paying for your camping reservation, there will now be a clear breakdown of the costs and how much the cancellation fees are. This is a new feature.

Also, if you’re a senior, finding the discount code is easier and more accessible. 

4. Add people, vehicle to booking

New to the booking process is the ability to add another person to the reservation. This feature can be used if someone will be at the site before you or if you’re booking the reservation on behalf of someone else. 

Vehicle information, including licence plate number and model, can also be added to the reservation. (Saves time when checking into a park.)

According to the ministry, people are camping more than ever. Reservations are up 200 per cent in the last 10 years, staff say.

"They’re your parks, they’re part of what makes B.C. so special,” said Heyman, adding people can submit site feedback online. "Get out and enjoy it.”